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Shooting the Perseids meteor shower...suggestions?


chelsea
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The annual Perseids meteor shower is coming up this weekend, and our forecast

calls for good weather, so instead of my usual lying in the boat staring at the

sky and watching the show, I thought I'd try some long exposure shots from a

couple places on solid rock where there's a really good view of the sky. I

have a Canon Rebel XT, 18-55 zoom (kit lens that came with the camera), the 70-

300 DO IS, and the 100mm macro. Any suggestions on settings? I'll be

monkeying with the camera and manual for the next couple nights for practise. I

hope they're right on the forecast, I'm in southeastern Ontario away from any

cities, great view of the night skies.

 

- Rose-Marie

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If I can hitch a ride on this thread, I've read many of the posts in photo.net, as well as the excellent tips from J. Harrington.

 

I am confused by what seems to be conflicting advice on lens choice. I have an EOS20D and three candidate lenses: the Canon 17-40 F/4L, the Canon 50 F/1.4, or the Tamron 28-70 F/2.8.

 

Some of the posts suggest that the faster lenses are best, others suggest the widest lens is best.

 

Which of these three would you recommend for shooting Meteor showers?

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A wider lens will surely increase the likelihood of catching a meteor in a given exposure since more of the sky is covered. Wider lenses are slower to reveal star streaking.

 

From my experience, some lenses tend to cause flare around bright stars if the lens is not stopped down a bit, or if focus is not perfect. More glass in a zoom, than in a prime might, be a factor with star flare.

 

Perfect focus is critical. Consider manually focusing on a distant artificial light source[across the lake maybe] (or bright star) prior to setting up your shot.

 

If a meteor is very bright, even a slow or stopped down lens will capture it, but many meteors are not super bright. The advantage of a faster lens is you can stop down a bit for increased sharpness. Another advantage of better light gathering power is that you can capture our Milky Way's glow.

 

Michael's 50MM 1.4 would be nice, except on a 1.6 crop D-SLR it won't cover enough of the sky IMO.

 

Meteors are much more frequent on the nights leading up to and after the shower peak. If the sky is cloudy on the 12th in your area, you may have other before or after the 12th.

 

I'll be attempting to capture meteor photos this weekend as I'll be in the darkness of Northern New Hampshire on the night of the 11th and Maine on the 12th. If your attempting meteor photography in an area with lots of light pollution, expect limited results.

 

I'll be publishing any new meteor photos I might catch here:

 

http://www.saugus.net/Photos/meteor_photography_tips_night.shtml

 

I'd be willing to publish "new" meteor photos there, submitted by anyone. You'd be welcome you include your own caption and credit/copyright info.

 

 

Very often, when watching for meteors under the best conditions, you'll encounter satellites, usually as slow moving, dim points of light,often too dim for slower lenses.

 

NASA's Space Shuttle (STS-118 launched August 8) and the International Space Station might also come into view depending on your location. These would also appear as slow moving, but brighter than most of the stars. There's a Web site somewhere for tracking their orbits, so you can determine if and when they'll pass over you.

 

Sometimes objects in orbit can abruptly disappear as they pass into the Earth's shadow. Satellites can vary in brightness as they rotate.

 

My ultimate set up for astrophotography would be (maybe someday) a Canon 5D (Low noise and FF) and Canon 24MM 1.4L lens.

 

Like Dan's set up here:

 

http://www.photo.net/photo/3799181

 

http://www.photo.net/photo/3799192

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Thanks guys, for the tips. Rob, I've tried the archives, but I'm out in the boonies with old slow dialup, friends from the city have sat here and actually groaned in physical pain and cried out "how can you STAND it?!" After a couple of pages of the search the day is half over. If the skies clear up tonight I'll try a little practise run on the stars.

 

Rose-Marie

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R-M: Meteors are fast and often not very bright, so you need speed on your end to capture more of them. Try a fast ISO and a fast lens, though not necessarily wide open because most lenses perform best when stopped down one or two stops from wide open.

 

A fast wide angle lens is a good idea, because you don't know where in the sky a meteor will appear. This week's shower will radiate from Perseus, but the meteors can appear anywhere. I generally use ISO 800 film, a 20mm f/2.8 lens set to f/4, and guesstimate the exposure time based on the background sky brightness. The darker it is, the longer the exposures up to an hour or two.

 

An interesting (to me) side note: a friend of mine, who has done a fair bit of astrophotography, once told me that when shooting stars, the actual f/stop isn't very important because you are dealing with a point source of light. What (he said) matters is the actual area of the glass surface on the lens. (This doesn't make sense to me, but I present it for whatever it's worth...)

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I guess I should follow up with a report, which I could sum up in 2 words: D*****d clouds!!! Got set up on the island, and watched a plane appear and disappear. So much for the clear sky forecast. I went back to the house, set up on the dock, and tried a few shots where it was clear to the north. Just some so-so shots of stars. Only saw a couple of decent meteors, and some tiny ones. I went to bed, set the alarm for 2:00 a.m., even more clouds, and after 10 minutes of watching, no meteors. Crawled back into my nice warm bed. Last night was clear, so I tried playing around with it again. Saw 2 nice bright meteors, neither one of them in the path of the camera lens. I've posted one shot from last night on my blog, tweaked the image a bit with photoshop: http://damselfly747.blogspot.com/

 

I'll keep playing with this, there's supposed to be a lunar eclipse coming up August 27th, hopefully the weather will be a bit more cooperative.

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this was pretty great from above Yosemite's Tuolomne Meadow (~10,000ft), though there were/are fires to the west and east that would occassionally cloud up the horizon a bit. Caught ten or twelve meteors on two 5Ds shooting continuous 0:20 or 0:30 exposures, plus some long exposure film frames (we'll see). Still working them up, final result will be a couple of good still frames, a couple of star trail composites, and a short movie...
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